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November 10, 2003

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Sean

Now Christians believe very strongly in the bible and such correct? Why is it such a big deal to people when a person doesnt believe in that stuff. I don't tell you your going to hell because your a christian and i don't think you should tell me I am for not believe in simple beliefs. I relize not all of you are like this, but i have been told that I am going to hell many times. Just trying to make you people see it from another view. What happened to god accepting everyone?

D. C.

Sean, some Christians believe strongly in the Bible, others less so. Personally I like the comment of the Rev. Dr. Sir John Polkinghorne, a distinguished Cambridge University particle physicist turned Anglican priest: The Bible is like a collection of lab notebooks, recording a variety of observations of humanity's encounters with the divine. Lab notebooks are valuable, but they're not the be-all and end-all.

Many Christians (I among them) have serious doubts whether there even is a hell. Moreover, many of us would never dream of predicting what's going to happen to any given individual at death -- that's not up to us. Many Christians think it's highly questionable that a loving and merciful God would impose infinite punishment for finite sin.

You might be a Christian and not even know it; see the posting Who Can Claim to be a Christian. Can you give me some idea of what it is you don't believe?

Thanks for the comment.

Sean

Well I wrote a very long post and then my computer froze SO I will recap it. I used to be a christian, I think I know quite a bit about the religion, I went to the camps, I'v been to church. The thing that really made me not believe and confirmed all my thoughts about religion was my sister. She recently got married (shes 33 I'm 17..don't ask) and when she got married she all of a sudden became very religious. She kept telling stories of all these people that were bad people and didn't believe and god. Finally i got really sick of hearing it and said "I don't believe in god, am I going to hell"? After I said that she gave me a lecture about how I AM going to hell and that I was a bad person. This is my sister...People like this are the people who ruin religion. People who treat religion like a burden instead of celebrating it like it should be. So from that point I just say that no one is wrong in what they believe and yet no one is quite right.

D. C.

I agree that none of us knows everything, and what we think we know or understand often proves wrong.

But I disagree that no one is wrong. Fundamentalists teach that sinners go to hell. Other Christians think there IS no hell. Somebody is indeed wrong.

If you ask me, at bottom Christianity is all about the Great Commandment that Jesus preached in Mark 12:28-34: Love God with your whole heart, soul, MIND, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. (In Matthew's version (22:34-40), Jesus adds, "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.")

The Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest who was named one of the 12 most-effective preachers in the English language, has said that she practices the religion OF Jesus, as opposed to the religion ABOUT Jesus.

What about all the doctrines of the religion ABOUT Jesus, which we ~call~ Christianity? I think of them as barnacles growing on a ship's hull; they were added to the faith years or even centuries after Jesus's death, by people who didn't even know the man.

* * *

I've been meaning to write something up about why I came to believe there's a God. Maybe this'll be a start:

I spent 25+ years as a professed agnostic, starting at age 12. I was trained in the sciences and in a scientist's approach to life, which is very close to Barbara Brown Taylor calls "openness to truth, no matter what truth turns out to be." (That's her definition of faith.) I couldn't reconcile theism, let alone what I was taught was "Christianity," with everything else I was learning about the way the universe worked.

To make a long story short, several years ago, after a lot of reading and discussion over the previous few years, I came to the conclusion that:

1) theism is the most plausible explanation for the highly-improbable existence of our universe, and of us;

2) the evolving complexity and "goodness" of the universe over the last 14+ billion years, notwithstanding the Second Law of Thermodynamics, suggests that creation is still going on;

3) we seem to be active participants in this continuing creation, which I think is pretty cool; and

4) the basic doctrines that Jesus preached -- as opposed to the doctrinal barnacles that came about in the ensuing centuries -- are remarkably consistent with the way human culture and even animal culture seem to work. (Read the book Non-Zero, by Robert Wright, for supporting evidence -- it's an entertaining read that sticks to the facts, although at the end Wright does comment that the evidence is consistent with the existence of a God.)

You might also want to read the recently-published "Seeking Enlightenment, One Hat at a Time," by Nevada Barr.

* * *

Hang in there, and keep searching -- you're far from alone.

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